Bosch, Robert August

b. 23 September 1861 Albeck, near Ulm, Germany
d. 9 March 1942 Stuttgart, Germany
German engineer, industrialist and pioneer of internal combustion engine electrical systems.
Robert was the eighth of twelve children of the landlord of a hotel in the village of Albeck. He wanted to be a botanist and zoologist, but at the age of 18 he was apprenticed as a precision mechanic. He travelled widely in the south of Germany, which is unusual for an apprenticeship. In 1884, he went to the USA, where he found employment with Thomas A. Edison and his colleague, the German electrical engineer Siegmund Bergmann. During this period he became interested and involved in the rights of workers.
In 1886 he set up his own workshop in Stuttgart, having spent a short time with Siemens in England. He built up a sound reputation for quality, but the firm outgrew its capital and in 1892 he had to sack nearly all his employees. Fortunately, among the few that he was able to retain were Arnold Zähringer, who later became Manager, and an apprentice, Gottlieb Harold. These two, under Bosch, were responsible for the development of the low-tension (1897) and the high-tension (1902) magneto. They also developed the Bosch sparking plug, again in 1902. The distributor for multi-cylinder engines followed in 1910. These developments, with a strong automotive bias, were stimulated by Bosch's association with Frederick Simms, an Englishman domiciled in Hamburg, who had become a director of Daimler in Canstatt and had secured the UK patent rights of the Daimler engine. Simms went on to invent, in about 1898, a means of varying ignition timing with low-tension magnetos.
It must be emphasized, as pointed out above, that the invention of neither type of magneto was due to Bosch. Nikolaus Otto introduced a crude low-tension magneto in 1884, but it was not patented in Germany, while the high-tension magneto was invented by Paul Winand, a nephew of Otto's partner Eugen Langen, in 1887, this patent being allowed to lapse in 1890.
Bosch's social views were advanced for his time. He introduced an eight-hour day in 1906 and advocated industrial arbitration and free trade, and in 1932 he wrote a book on the prevention of world economic crises, Die Verhütung künftiger Krisen in der Weltwirtschaft. Other industrialists called him the "Red Bosch" because of his short hours and high wages; he is reputed to have replied, "I do not pay good wages because I have a lot of money, I have a lot of money because I pay good wages." The firm exists to this day as the giant multi-national company Robert Bosch GmbH, with headquarters still in Stuttgart.
Further Reading
T.Heuss, 1994, Robert Bosch: His Life and Achievements (trans. S.Gillespie and J. Kapczynski), New York: Henry Holt \& Co.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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